Elvis Merzlikins said he wants to win the Vezina Trophy this season as a tribute to former Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, who died in a fireworks accident July 4 at age 24.
"I don't want to make any promises, but I can tell you … my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy," Merzlikins told The Athletic in comments published Tuesday. "I'm gonna win a … Vezina for him. We can't make promises because this is hockey and we don't know how the season can go, but this is my goal. I believe I'm going to reach it."
The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the goalie voted the best in the NHL.
Merzlikins was 8-12-5 with a 2.77 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games (23 starts) for the Blue Jackets last season. He is expected to continue splitting playing time with Joonas Korpisalo similar to last season. Korpisalo was 9-13-7 with a 3.30 GAA and an .894 save percentage in 33 games (31 starts).